“Just call me the Soviet cowboy”
Try as I might, the words ‘rock musical’ can’t help but give me a little shiver of discontent, such is my preference for piano and strings over an electric guitar. But I do try and test my preconceptions (Lizzie probably being the last time I proved myself wrong!) and so I sat down to listen to recent SimG release – Comrade Rockstar, a new musical with book & lyrics by Julian Woolford and music by Richard John.
It’s based on the properly fascinating tale of Dean Reed, an American singer known as the Soviet Elvis after he defected to the other side of the Iron Curtain at the height of the Cold War. And sure enough, it is much more musically varied than the moniker ‘rock musical’ might suggest, stretching its wings far past any connotations of solely Elvis-lite content too, to create a gently beguiling musical that you can certainly visualise on a stage somewhere near you soon.
There’s certainly a smattering of pop-rock which has its moments. There are shades of Jason Robert Brown on charismatic opener ‘Driving Ambition’ and the ‘driving’ narrative of the title track is engaging and energetic, Tim Howar on fine form in both as Reed. I really loved the incorporation of a gentle Americana on the likes of ‘Smallville Colorado’ and the gorgeous ‘Minnesota’, Howar and Andy Conaghan combining beautifully there.
There are also times where it feels a little under-orchestrated at times – Katy Secombe imbues ‘Pravda’ with much character but musically it sounds thin and this happens a couple of times. Elsewhere though, the presence of Caroline Sheen elevates the intriguing texture of ballads like ‘Happy Ever After’ and bonus track ‘The Mermaid Song’ to must-listen territory. So, worth a whirl then and don’t be too surprised to hear more about this musical some time soon in the future.